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Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2014;10:339-67. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032813-153745. Epub 2014 Jan 2.

How to use the new DSM-5 somatic symptom disorder diagnosis in research and practice: a critical evaluation and a proposal for modifications.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Philipps University of Marburg, D-35032 Marburg, Germany; email: rief@uni-marburg.de.


The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) changed the term "somatoform disorders" to "somatic symptom and related disorders" and further modified diagnostic labels and criteria. We review evidence for the validity of the new criteria, specifically of somatic symptom disorder (SSD), and present a critical discussion of unsolved and new problems. We also provide an update of mechanisms and interventions that have been empirically evaluated in somatoform disorders. For many mechanisms, it is unclear whether their role can be easily transposed to SSD. Therefore more research is needed on the similarities and differences between medically unexplained and medically explained conditions. To overcome the obvious shortcomings of the current classification, we offer a modification of this DSM-5 section as well as a crossover system to apply these criteria for somatic symptom and related disorders. This proposal allows working with DSM-5 but also continuing successful lines of research with concepts such as hypochondriasis/illness anxiety, chronic pain, and medically unexplained versus medically explained syndromes.

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